Terrie's Take 717 -- Used Clothing Recycling Boom, ebiz news from Japan

Terrie's Take terrie at mailman.japaninc.com
Sun Jul 7 21:30:37 JST 2013

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.

General Edition Sunday, July 07, 2013, Issue No. 717


- What's New -- Used Clothing Recycling Boom
- News -- Fukushima radiation is not done yet
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback
- Travel Picks -- Organic Cakes in Tochigi, Washi in Tokyo
- News Credits

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A popular destination for residents in the Shibuya area over the weekend is
the occasional clothing flea market held at the NHK-Yoyogi Park
Amphitheater. The last market, held about a month ago, had over 400 stalls,
selling tons (literally) of used clothing in good condition. As our teenage
kids already know, although the flea market starts at 10:00am, the best
time to get over there is around 14:30, as stall holders are starting to
pack up prior to the 15:00 closing time. It is in that 30-minute period
that you can get a JPY5,000 pair of jeans, already marked down to JPY1,500,
for JPY500 or less. Why? Because the stall holders are typically university
students selling for a bit of extra pocket money, and since they get the
clothing in bulk (by the kg, actually) from recycle shops, they don't want
to lug all that stuff back home again.

Held by the Friends of Recycling Association (Recycle Suishin Tomonokai),
the Yoyogi event is the most visible part of a broad movement towards
recycling  happening in Tokyo, and for that matter across the country. The
flea markets are indicative of the massive attitude shift by Japanese in
terms of used goods and clothing. When we first arrived in Japan in the
1980's it was almost impossible to give used things away, let alone sell
them. Japan had the reputation of being the ultimate consumer society and
apart from some Catholic and Salvation Army used clothing stores, you had
to trash things to get rid of them. The first signs of change and the move
from trash to chic came in the 1990's, post-bubble, when people really were
becoming needy and having to find ways to reduce their costs -- and yet,
being addicted to shopping, they still wanted that form of entertainment.

We remember a Japan Inc. magazine story about a company called Treasure
Factory back in 2004 (http://www.japaninc.com/article.php?articleID=1286),
which was one of the early players in the commercial recycling business,
being founded in 1999. Their business model was to exercise good product
curation coupled with clever marketing that pitched a huge range of
new-looking products at amazingly low prices. It worked and with very
little outside capital the company went public (3093) in 2008. It now has
sales of JPY7.9bn and is making an EBIT profit of JPY639m or 8%. Not bad,
and very much in line with the industry standard.

[Continued below...]

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Please find out more about the Roppongi Hills Residence and other serviced
apartments from MORI LIVING under: http://www.moriliving.com/en/

[...Article continues]

The used consumer goods recycling business is now a hot sector, and the
main players are going all out to grow their market shares as new entrants
try to muscle their way in. The leader is probably BookOff, which has
divisions selling not only books but many other products as well, and which
recently started expanding overseas. BookOff had revenues of JPY76bn last
year but had a stock price hiccup after a significant fall in EBITearnings.
BookOff reckons the setback was due to their making significant investments
both overseas and in new business segments, so as to fend off competitors.
Hmmm, we'll see.

One of those competitors is HardOff (ahem, yes this is one of those
Japanese names that won't travel well abroad...), which is originally a
Niigata company. On consolidated revenues of JPY12bn last year, they
managed to churn out a very respectable 12% EBIT of JPY1.4bn. They're
enjoying massive growth thanks to their mix of in-company and franchise
stores. As of May 31st this year, they had 199 self-owned stores and 489
franchised ones.

Clearly there is money in junk, and it's a business that pretty much anyone
can do because the cost of inventory is minimal (between JPY50 and JPY500
per kilo to the person selling HardOff the clothing). Indeed, it's better
than "minimal", because you have the suppliers of that inventory (the
customers themselves) laundering it, transporting it to the shop, and most
likely spending the money they receive to buy more product before they get
out the door..!

What caught our attention with HardOff is their clothing brand ModeOff,
possibly the cheapest place in Japan to find clothing (yes, cheaper than
the Salvation Army store in Wada, Suginami-ku). There is a branch in Sakura
Shimmachi (Denentoshi Line) which is typical of the company's offerings.
Two floors in a modest building down a side street from the station, and
probably EVERY mother in the neighborhood knows about it -- judging by the
number of mama chari bicycles lined up outside the store at any given time
of the day. Clothing is sorted according to gender and season, and is
discounted even further if its out of season. ModeOff checks and repairs
everything before it goes on sale, so the quality of goods there is about
as good as you could want. Typically clothing is about 50% to 10% of the
price of new, and there are plenty of childrens' sizes to choose from.

A number of other recycled clothing stores are starting to make an impact
on the market. One of the most interesting is DonDonDown, which has a
unique pricing system for cutting the cost of clothing the longer it sits
on shop shelves. The effect of their pricing model is something like a
reverse auction, where shoppers are encouraged to come to the store every
week to see if their wish list items have become cheaper, yet at the same
time encouraging them to snap up a reduced item before someone else does.
It's very clever -- and an effective lesson in how deflation works. This
chain is also growing strongly, with more than 60 stores currently. Like
HardOff, they are using a franchise system to turbocharge their business.

Another new player expected to make a splash in used clothing is the online
shopping giant Zozotown (operated by Start Today). Their new venture,
ZozoUsed, was built on top of an online auction site acquired by Start
Today in
2011, and is now leveraging the 5m fashion followers on Zozotown. Given
that the average female (mostly) shopper has a wardrobe full of dated or
otherwise unwanted clothes, Zozo Used has a huge base of potential clothing
inventory "suppliers" to draw from. The company is investing in a new
logistics center so that it can boost sales from the current JPY4bn to
JPY10bn in the next couple of years.

To wrap up this look at recycled clothing, have you ever wondered how much
used clothing is disposed of in Japan every year? According to an FY2009
survey by an SME agency under the auspices of METI, the number is about
940,000 tons -- that's about 7.4kg per man, woman, and child annually...
Given that fact, we think this sector has a huge capacity to grow over the
next 5-10 years, not only here in Japan but abroad as well. Logistics
systems, franchising, and product quality control will be the defining
factors for success, given that the cost of goods is such a negligible

...The information janitors/


------ English Community Manager for Travel Portal --------

www.japantourist.jp is expanding and is looking for a English native
editor/writer who has previous experience managing online communities and
curating content. JapanTourist.jp was set up to help Japan promote its many
attractions to foreign tourists and in particular to demystify and remove
anxiety by travellers about how to get around and deal with Japan. The site
has been running for 18 months and is now Japan's largest online inbound
travel portal.

The job involves:
- Servicing the needs and concerns of our partners around the country
- Working with Technology to prioritize software development of the site
- Working with Sales to harmonize and integrate the efforts of that team
with the Partners
- Curating the best stories (and occasional editing) for display on the top
page of the site
- Working with contributors to help them improve their writing and
photographic efforts
- Creating content ideas and campaigns to get community engagement by
- Creating incentives and campaigns to re-engage dormant contributors

This position is open to full-time (preferred) and part-time (possible)
applicants, including, potentially, applicants not residing in Japan. You
must be able to deal with the many personalities involved in the community
and have a clear sense of mission and have a self-starter attitude.
Japanese capability is helpful but not essential.

Contact: info at japantourist.jp for details.

+++ NEWS

- Restaurant worker wages increase
- AIJ investors get just 6% of money back
- Yes, foreigners can use Juki Net
- Fukushima radiation is not done yet
- Taiwanese still love Japan

=> Restaurant worker wages increase

A survey conducted by Recruit Jobs has found that wages for part-time
employees in the restaurant sector have increased to the highest level in
almost four years. The average salary in May was JPY920/hour, about two yen
(yes, just two yen) more than the same period in 2012. Perhaps more
newsworthy than the two yen raise is the fact that the same survey found
that there was a 30% increase in the number of part-time jobs being offered
compared to May last year. But before you start thinking this is thanks to
Abenomics, competitor Intelligence Ltd., has just come out with another
survey finding that average part-time wages across all sectors actually
dropped 1.3% over last year, to JPY969/hour. The reason is that
professional positions are seeing wage deflation. (Source: TT commentary
from e.nikkei.com, Jul 04, 2013)


=> AIJ investors get just 6% of money back

Companies and individuals who invested in AIJ Investment Advisors, the fund
that went bust in March 2012 with JPY145.8bn of assets under management,
have only been able to recover 6%, around JPY8.5bn, of their investments.
There is still another JPY4bn in unlisted stocks and other illiquid
securities that probably will not be recoverable, so overall losses will be
more than JPY130bn. An SESC investigation has found that most of the assets
invested on the behalf of clients cannot be accounted for. ***Ed: Does
anyone else get the feeling that there is a cover up going on over the
AIJfraud?** (Source:
TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Jul 03, 2013)


=> Yes, foreigners can use Juki Net

Foreigners didn't get a chance to vote for the Zairyu card, and for most
people having to have one is the inevitable consequence of living in
someone else's country. But the Japanese Juki Net ID card system was much
more hotly debated, being viewed as an unwarranted intrusion on personal
privacy, and there are still some locations objecting to it. Nonetheless,
the government is rolling out Juki Net, and the conveniences it offers in
simplifying administration procedures (such as registering residence
changes through the Internet) at your local ward or city office are sure to
win over public support in the long run. The government has now announced
that foreigners will also be able to use Juki Net from tomorrow. ***Ed: You
need to apply for a Juki Net card ahead of using it.** (Source:
TTcommentary from
japantimes.co.jp, Jul 06, 2013)


=> Fukushima radiation is not done yet

While life since 3/11 has returned to normal for most of the country, the
threat of radiation leaking from the crippled Fukushima power plant is not
yet over. Several announcements this week remind us of this. Firstly there
was the admission from TEPCO that they have detected in test wells
radioactive substances such as strontium and tritium, at 3,000 becquerels/
ltr, being carried by ground water seepage towards the ocean. If you eat
fish, we definitely do not recommend eating any caught within a few hundred
kilometers of the plant. Then, later the same week, it was announced that
moss growing on the rooftop of an apartment building in Fukushima city had
cesium levels exceeding 1.7m becquerels, the highest radioactivity levels
detected since last year. ***Ed: What's scary is that Fukushima city is a
good 50km distant from the nuclear plant.** (Source: TT commentary from
asahi.com, Jul 04, 2013)


=> Taiwanese still love Japan

According to a Visa travel survey, Japan is still the most preferred
destination for Taiwanese considering travel abroad. 36% of those polled
said they were planning to visit Japan in the next 12 months, followed by
12% to China, 9% to Hong Kong, 8% to South Korea, and 6% to the USA. Those
polled said that the factors most influencing them to visit Japan were
travel friends, tourist attractions, and the quality of food. ***Ed: We
dare say that the cheaper yen, safety, and onsen probably also play a big
role in those decisions?** (Source: TT commentary from chinapost.com, Jul
6, 2013)


NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of
posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.


------ The Robert Grondine Memorial Scholarship Fund ------

In 2011, we lost a great friend and colleague, Bob Grondine. Bob made
considerable contributions in Japan to the legal and business community as
well as important civic and charitable efforts. Not only was Bob a
wonderful friend, family man and mentor, he was also a role model as a
leader in US-Japan relations.

Among a number of US-Japan causes, Bob was an important supporter and chair
of the Japan Advisory Committee of the United States-Japan Bridging
Foundation, an organization established to grow global leaders through a
program providing scholarships to American college students to study in
Japan. Students designated as Grondine Scholars will be selected for their
ability to emulate Bob's intellect and spirit as well as his dedication to
US-Japan relationship. The fund will keep his mentoring spirit alive and
memorialize his great legacy.

Donations of all amounts are welcome. To learn more, visit www.
bridgingfoundation.org or click on the link below. Thank you.



=> BiOS, a leading bilingual IT services and resourcing company, is
actively marketing the following positions for customers setting up or
expanding in Japan, as well as other employers of bilinguals.


BiOS is urgently looking for an Account Manager with experience in
recruiting and account management for IT infrastructure service delivery,
at our BiOS office in the Minato-ku area. The candidate will be responsible
for supporting the continued development and management of our existing
clients, and serving as the BiOS front line and primary point of contact
for new clients and onsite staffs, as well as networking and developing
opportunities with potential clients. You will also be responsible for
providing a permanent recruitment support.

Due to the technical nature and demanding work environment, this position
is suitable for someone with solid experience in recruiting, sales, account
management, or similar client-facing tasks, preferably in IT. In addition,
since this role requires direct communication with both internal staffs and
clients who are bilingual in English and Japanese, fluent English and
Japanese will be required.

Remuneration is JPY3.6m - JPY4.5m plus commission, depending on your
experience and skill level.


- Project Manager, global payment services provider, JPY7M - JPY9M
- Junior Network Engineer, Japanese IT services provider, JPY3M - JPY4M
- Technical Support Engineer, medical equipment services provider, JPY4M -
- Bilingual Data Center Engineer, global financial firm, JPY3.5M - JPY4M
- HR/Office Manager, global licenses renewal services provider, JPY5M -

Interested individuals may e-mail resumes to: tomohiro.kimura at biosjp.com.
Check out the BiOS web page for other jobs: www.biosjp.com/careers.php.

** BiOS Job Mail

Every 2 weeks BiOS sends out a regular communication to its job seeking
candidates, called BiOS Job Mail. Every edition carries a list of BiOS’s
current and most up-to-date vacancies, with featured entries containing a
short job description and every job being linked to the main entry on the
BiOS home page. Regardless of whether you are unemployed and searching,
thinking about a career change, or just curious to know if there is
something out there that might suit you better, the BiOS Job Mail
newsletter is an easy and convenient way for you to stay informed. If you
would like to register for the BiOS Job Mail, or to find out more, please
email tomohiro.kimura at biosjp.com.



------------------ ICA Event - July 24th-------------------
Speaker: Dr Greg Story, President, Dale Carnegie Training Japan

Title: "Igniting Workplace Enthusiasm - How to Create Engaged Employees"

Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/

Date: Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
Time: 6:30 Doors open, Buffet Dinner included and cash bar
Cost: 4,000 yen (members), 6,000 yen (non-members). Open to all No sign ups
at the door!!!!!!!
RSVP: RSVP by 5pm on Sunday, July 21st. Venue is The Foreign
Correspondents' Club of Japan




In this section we run comments and corrections submitted by readers. We
encourage you to spot our mistakes and amplify our points, by email, to
editors at terrie.com.

=> No corrections or comments this week.



=> Isetatsu Paper Store in Yanaka, Tokyo
Edo period art in the 21st Century

Walking around the old-fashioned suburbs of Yanaka, I was a bit in a daze.
There isn’t anything flashy or particularly eye-catching about this area,
like you might find in the neon signs of Akihabara for instance. But
there’s something about the small town main street vibe that this part of
town gives off that I absolutely love.

At first glance, the exterior of Isetatsu doesn’t seem to be any different
from the residences that surround it, except for the intricately designed
portrait of a woman in a traditional robe above the door. I stopped to take
a photo of the portrait, but that was before my sister, a
going-on-four-year resident of Japan, pointed out that it was indeed the
traditional color woodblock print store.

Isetatsu was originally founded in 1864 in Iwamotocho. The owners,
currently in their fifth generation of print makers, use Edo period
patterns typically found on traditional fabric and print them on
chiyogamipaper. The store is popular with women and children, as the
paper is used
for paper dolls and toys.


=> Patisserie Merci, Utsunomiya, Tochigi
Fresh ingredients, no additives or preservatives

My spirit lifts when I behold the sea of rice fields next to Merci
Patisserie. While not far west of downtown Utsunomiya, in
TochigiPrefecture, this cake shop embraces and showcases country
living. At Merci,
you can find not only gift goods, cafe fare, cakes, sweets (cream puffs,
custard, gelato!) but also shelves of health food goods and farm fresh,
local, gourmet quality eggs. Indeed, eggs are central to this patisserie.
They have won awards in Tokyo. The chicken farm is nearby. Apparently, the
chickens are raised in a clean environment and are not administered
antibiotics, antibacterial agents or synthetic coloring.

With the same sentiment, baked goods at Merci are made with next to no
additives, and as much as possible local ingredients are used, such as rice
flour, eggs, fruit and vegetables. Yes, vegetables! Japanese often combine
vegetable flavors into sweets. Merci is no exception, offering typical
French sweets along with tantalizing and unusual combinations such as
tomato ice-cream, tomato jelly and pudding made with white wine and spinach




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Written by: Terrie Lloyd (terrie.lloyd at japaninc.com)

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